Andrew Tabler’s retreat in the the NY Times: Reality bites, since neither party (openly) prefers his “solution” of sparking more wars in the Middle East
This (misleadingly headlined) piece by Tabler and Ross represents a really interesting trajectory for people like Tabler (especially) who have been arguing, literally for a decade, that military action should be taken against Assad, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran etc.
Now, given that both political parties generally (or at least openly) reject deepening war and violence – or the decent chance of going further down this path – in the Mid East, they are reduced to arguing a somewhat more rational position that is but a shadow of their longstanding desires: to support Obama’s peace/ceasefire efforts in Syria with Russia, the credible threat of force should at least be on the table and in the agreement.
This is amazing from these folks for several reasons, but most of all because it represents how unpalitable (thankfully!) their original position of pro-active bombing/invasion/massive equipping etc has become – and how the only reasonable choice in town (the Beltway) anymore is to support a collective winding down of the Syria war via diplomacy, unfortunate targeted concessions, long-term strategizing (I have suggested a patient approach of treating a rump Assad-Syria as a pariah state slowly squeezed by its own contradictions and pathologies… i.e. the same approach to the Iron Curtain in the 1950s), a cajoling of allies, applying pressure, oblique force and advantage in limited areas… Now Tabler is essentially admitting that this is the best track left, and that the insertion of the limited threat of force will be the best he can reasonably rescue from his preferred option: which we must remember always was a massive, clarifying war with the forces he sees as the root of all problems in the Mid East (i.e. not any of the Arab monarchies, Sunni extremists or allied dictatorships which, for the last ten years, have been given the usual clean bill of health).
“…Opponents of these kinds of limited strikes say they would prompt Russia to escalate the conflict and suck the United States deeper into Syria. But these strikes would be conducted only if the Assad government was found to be violating the very truce that Russia says it is committed to. Notifying Russia that this will be the response could deter such violations of the truce and the proposed military agreement with Moscow. In any case, it would signal to Mr. Putin that his Syrian ally would pay a price if it did not maintain its side of the deal.
If Russia does want to limit its involvement in Syria, the threat of limited strikes should persuade it to make Mr. Assad behave. Conversely, if the skeptics are right that Mr. Putin will get serious about a political solution only if he sees the costs of backing Syria’s government increasing, the threat of such strikes is probably the only way to start a political process to end the war…”